Sunday, April 22, 2018

I WAS IN THE GPO


GPO Rebel HQ 1916 - The Movie
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So I was.

It's hard to know where to start with this excellent and engaging exhibition. It is centered around the 1916 Rising but also puts it in the context of the time.

A good place to start might be the innovative presentation of a dramatised version of the Easter Week Diary (above). This is a sort of wide-screen Cinemascope version of the progress of the rebellion in various critical locations across the city.



Aerial view - Operations Room, Dublin Castle - The Movie

Continuity between the various locations is preserved by constant reference to an operations map of the city which is swooped into and out of after the fashion of the Google satellite map.

This may sound a bit scrappy but it works. We swoop in on the GPO, the Castle, the Shelbourne Hotel, Mount Street Bridge etc. to catch up with the ongoing action in each place. And the action moves at breakneck speed. You'd really want to watch the sequence a few times to make sure not to miss anything.

One of the first things to hit me on the way in was the on-screen commentaries from established scholars. These were very well edited, to the point, and presented a seamless introduction to what was to follow. I have referenced these below.



Fearghal McGarry

Fearghal has interrogated the Witness Statements comprehensively and in depth which has enabled him to evaluate the Rising from the perspective of the ordinary footsoldier.



Padraig Yeates

Padraig has researched and written extensively on the revolutionary period from a social history point of view.



Catríona Crowe

Catríona spent her career in the National Archives and her great legacy will be the 1901 and 1911 censuses online. She has also fought for women to be given their rightful place in the history of the time.



Joe Lee

Joe is the grand=daddy of living Irish historians.



Diarmaid Ferriter

Diarmuid is a relative newcomer on the block and has spread himself quite widely. He is a savvy media presence.



Kevin Myers

Kevin has long campaigned for recognition for Irishmen who fought in WWI and has tended to downplay the Rising.



Irish Volunteer uniform

There are many well curated glass case exhibits covering both combatants and non-combatants in the Rising and those affected by related events of that time.



Cumann na mBan uniform



British Auxiliary uniform



Housewife bearing the brunt of the 1913 lockout



This messenger bike really took my fancy and I went over for a closer look at its contents.



I was paying great attention to the labels on the tins when I noticed the black pencil-like things sticking out of the top of them. It was only then that I realised that this was a consignment of lethal weaponry.



Needless to say the walls are replete with explanatory panels like the one above. Replica brick walls are also plastered with posters for everything from theatre performances to monster meetings.



A 50th Anniversary Present
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Then there is a short on-wall exhibition upstairs bringing the story up to date.

The panel above gives me an opportunity to mention the one thing that jarred with me. The text panels are all bilingual and happily the Irish versions are fine as far as the content goes. But I found the combination of the earlier Gaelic font with the Roman spelling disorientating. I would have expected that font to include séimhiús or else have the Roman font with the "h"s.

It may well be that this disorientation applies only to those old enough to have used the Gaelic font extensively in their youth. And I can see that the organisers may want to have added an extra bit of "Irishness" to the Irish language text. Perhaps others may wish to comment on this.

All of the above is really only a teaser for the exhibition. I dropped in with just under an hour to kill while waiting for Felix Larkin's talk on Grace Gifford. But I'll need to go back myself and look at the vast array of interesting material in more detail. I'd be well advised to arrive early in the morning, take the tour and a short break for lunch in the onsite café, and then stay until closing time.

Anyway, I said at the outset that I was in the GPO. I hope I gave the impression that this had been in 1916 and that I was still drawing the military pension. This, of course, was just to mislead you in the interest of adding a bit of spice to my report.

I did think I had an uncle Michael in the Rising and, indeed, there was a Michael Dwyer in the GPO garrison but he wasn't my uncle. The uncle turned out to have been in Boland's Mills, but that wasn't in 1916. An interesting mini story which I will recount another time.

However I have been in the GPO and not just buying stamps or posting letters. I spent a lot of time there in my youth, on the third floor which then housed Radio Éireann.

I was reminded of this when being ushered out the side door after Felix's talk. That door used to be the way in to Radio Éireann.

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